Henrik von Scheel and Prof Mark von Rosing

Social Media is both a threat and an opportunity

Organizations are traditionally used to being in control of customer interactions and have long built IT systems that push messages to the customer. It is clear, however, that social media and the consumerization of technology has already had an impact on customer’s daily lives and is here to stay.

Through social listening and an effective Business Process Management system, organization’s ability to listen to the conversation and respond through changing business processes will become a major differentiator. It is essential to combine social media data with unstructured and structured data from other sources to provide a holistic and representative picture of what your customers are saying. A social media strategy that is supported by an organization that is able to rapidly alter business processes, listen to and identify and manage risks early on, and also provide sales opportunities will be an effective one.

BPM projects are traditionally used to manage human-centric organizational processes. Recently I've seen more and more cases where BPM software is being used to tackle non-traditional scenarios - scenarios which would historically have been handled by other systems. Let's take a look at a couple examples, and then I'll attempt to provide a reason for why BPM was chosen in each case.

The first case is a CRM-related scenario. A Utilities provider required a system which would allocate CRM tasks to a group of service agents. The solution needed to calculate which agent had the skill level necessary and the time available to handle the task. So really, we're talking about queue management according to a set of business rules and real time availability. Does this sound like a job for BPM? Well, the company opted to use a BPM suite simply because the BPM suite already included out-of-the-box queue management and business rule features. These features (which are part of most modern BPM suites) made the project much simpler, despite the fact that there was no human workflow element involved - rather, simply a calculation and a one step assignment. The fact is that another back end or bespoke system could have been used, but because BPM suites have graduated to the level where they include many additional human-oriented features, it didn't matter that there was no actual "workflow" or "process" - BPM won out over the alternatives.

The second example we'll look at is a system which handles failed invoices. An invoice system for a major IT services provider often encounters failed invoices - invoices failing on a particular form - to the tune of hundreds per day. The provider required a system which would enable a group of agents to handle and fix such failed invoices and resubmit them to the invoice system. I won't go into all the details (this system included different types of users - those who decided how to fix the invoices, and those who performed the fix), but what the company really needed was a portal which enabled all these users to manage the failed invoices. Does this sound like a traditional BPM case? In fact, the provider opted for a BPM suite here too, since a BPM suite already has a pre-built portal which enables users and managers to handle hundreds of tasks per day. Each of these "Tasks" was mapped to a "Failed invoice", and in very short time, the BPM suite was customized to handle the entire situation. Here too, there was no standard BPM workflow or process, but because of the aspect of end-user task management, BPM won out over other options.

These cases are just a couple of hundreds and perhaps thousands of cases per year where companies are opting to use BPM for non-traditional BPM activities. This means that BPM is growing beyond its originally intended reach, and it will be interesting to see how far it continues to expand in the future.

Got the following suggested post from Forum contributor Michal Rykiert.  While we've covered the Cloud quite extensively before, it is always good to be reminded of the basics.  It is below:
4 Things to Consider Before Moving BPM to Cloud
By Michal Rykiert, WEBCON
Cloud is becoming more and more popular worldwide. Some even say it is currently fashionable to have it. Naturally, cloud arrived also at BPM world. Although marketers and salesmen would want us to use cloud right away, it is always good to consider certain solutions individually and independently.
The advantages of cloud BPM are well known and among them most commonly repeated are: low TCO, fast implementation and  easy maintenance. I think there’s no need for further comment in this area, as there are already dozens of articles about that on the Internet.
I’d like to point out several factors that are worth considering before making a decision whether to move BPM(S) to cloud or not. Please note I’ll be referring to ‘cloud’ as to all infrastructures and solutions offered by external providers.
1.       Integration –in most cases BPM system is not the first IT solution in a company, but usually an another one. Apart from optimizing/automating business processes, it’s task is also to integrate back office processes, that are handled by other systems. For those companies which already have some IT solutions implemented, whether on premises or in cloud, an integration may be a considerable obstacle. Making two separate systems work together (let’s say ERP and BPM) requires to have as good communication as possible. Only that ensures optimal outcome, especially when you consider the fact that usually BPMS is utilized by most, or even all organization’s employees. Using different systems in different clouds, will put you in the situation when any kind of integration is significantly more difficult.
Additionally, according to Oracle’s report ‘Cloud for Business Managers: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly’: ‘75% [of companies] say their ability to innovate using their cloud apps has been hindered and the main hindrance is a lack of integration (53%)’. That being said, research and deep consideration of possible outcomes (of implementation BPM in cloud) is necessary.
2.       Availability – my experience shows that sooner or later BPM suite becomes critical to most organizations that implemented it. It usually takes no more than 1-2 years. That being said, what if server’s motherboard goes down? How to handle situations like that? When you have an infrastructure on premise, you’ll be able to go to a store ‘around a corner’, buy a new one and migrate ad hoc. It may sound crazy, but life shows it happens!
When it comes to cloud service, you have no influence on how long repairs would take. Off course you can trust slogans such as “24/7 access”, offered by vendors of cloud based hosting services, but always check the actual policies and agreements you sign. The point is, not to stumble on situation when nobody in your organization cannot do their job and your only redress for a downtime, is a discount for additional service...
3.       Efficiency – when it comes to more complex and complicated business processes, efficiency and responsiveness might also be an issue. Recent research shows that not every cloud vendor and not every cloud service will guarantee the performance you may want to achieve. Therefore, before you move your BPM to cloud, conduct necessary tests to be sure you choice is right. Naturally, cloud also requires an investment in very high speed internet connection, especially when amount of end-users and interchanged data is considerable.
4.       Security – I think it is safe to assume that security level in cloud is equal or even higher than on-premise infrastructure. It applies both to IT (firewalls) as well as to physical protection, like e.g. fire suppression for servers. However, big companies and data centers are more likely to be attacked by hackers (I’m sure you’ve seen recent news). An infrastructure offered to thousands of clients, is more “attractive”, than a small, privately owned sever. It reminds me the famous quote: ‘With great power comes great responsibility’, and the reality shows sometimes it’s hard to live up to certain expectations.
Cloud BPM will be particularly useful for those companies which already moved their other solutions to cloud. One of the biggest advantages it offers, is that organizations can try whether certain solution works out for them or not. However, who has ever heard that correctly implemented BPM(S) that didn’t bring return on investment? :)
Ultimately, the question is: ‘What do we really need and what is more important for us?’ For now, there’s no better solution in general. Both cloud and on premise solutions have their pros and cons. The thing is not to follow hype and marketing slogans and evaluate solutions according to current situation and business strategy. Then choose the one that fits better.

It’s been my experience that running a BPM project requires a delicate balance between high level business modeling and innovation, highly organized methodology planning, and a strong focus in the relevant technologies (IBM BPM, Pega, Oracle, etc).

By and large, my customers/champions don’t really care about the last two, unless they have a direct impact on the first. I’ve been lucky enough to work with mostly fortune 100 companies over the last 10 years in the BPM space, and their vision often transcends technology.

The BPM market, that is.

Everybody's got an opinion.

Earlier this year, in a study apparently sponsored by my neighbors at Kofax, Forrester Research predicted that BPM will produce $7.6 billion annually by 2016, up from $4.4 billion last year. Pretty much on the same page, though perhaps a tad less optimistic, Wintergreen Research predicts a $7 billion market by 2018. IDC declines to publish their BPM-specific estimates (unless you buy their research), although they have said that the combined BPM and middleware market is on the order of $18 billion (in an incredible coincidence, Magic Johnson and I combined for 18 points per game in 1985).

And then there's my friend Theo Priestly over at Software AG, who may or may not know the answer, but isn't saying.

It's tempting to write off forecasts. Most of us have heard the quote attributed (probably incorrectly) to Thomas Watson, founder of IBM, in 1943. He is supposed to have said, "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers"—a prediction that, regardless of who actually made it, rather missed the mark.

But what's the actual source of confusion here: the size of the market, or the product that's being presented to that market? No doubt there really is a pretty limited audience for a computer that does calculations at the speed of a third grader, occupies the square footage of a soccer pitch, and requires frequent vacuum tube maintenance. As long as that's the technology we're talking about, you can't really fault the single-digit market estimate.

The failure was to imagine what a computer might be and do as technology advanced. 

BPM predictions, I believe, suffer from the same failure of imagination. Sure, we can look ahead a bit and make some educated guesses. Having conquered the back-office processes for which most companies originally adopted it, BPM will spread outward to customers, partners, and suppliers. BPM-based processes will be driven less by flowcharts and more by time, goals, and events. Case management will take a greater (or lesser) role, eventually supplanting (or ending up as just one of many implementation varieties of) BPM.

Those are all interesting trends, and they're all important. But they assume pretty much the same market drivers and the same thinking about BPM that we have today. I'd argue there's more to BPM's future... and I'll do just that, in my next post.

In the meantime: do you think there's an explosive trend that will drive BPM to unexpected success in the future? Plenty of space in the comments section below to share your thoughts.

a1sx2_Thumbnail1_Facilitator-2013-09-07-at-12.02.56-PM.pngYes, Business Process Improvement Facilitators need to know group process skills, but that is not all. Four categories of skills are listed below. (Note Part 1 of this blog covered what a BPI Facilitator does, why they are needed in addition to the Project Lead, and what responsibilities they have and don’t have in a BPI Project.)

General Facilitation Skills

  • Guiding group sessions with departmental, cross-functional, or external groups
  • Interactions and presentation to senior management
  • Conducting face to face and virtual meetings
  • Planning, conducting, and following up for meetings
  • Managing group dynamics
  • Managing the process, and staying out of the content
  • Staying neutral, while listening, building trust
  • Moving the group toward the meeting objective

BPM Methodology Skills

  • Building a charter
  • Process Modeling with large groups
  • Building process diagrams with software tools
  • Using techniques for process analysis, and process design
  • Identifying and gathering data
  • IT collaboration and coordination
  • Which BPM tools and techniques to use and when
  • Using a shared repository
  • How data integrity and data management is important in the process
  • Where integration with other applications is needed

Interpersonal Skills

  • How to keep the project on track with the Project Lead
  • How to assist in change management

Political Skills

  • Identifying red flags in the BPI effort and addressing them with the Project Lead and Process Owner
  • How to work with the culture
  • How management is important to the process and how to engage them
  • Where integration with other divisions/functions is needed

Tips for the BPI Team Facilitator

For Building the Charter

  • The Team Facilitator and Project Lead should be talking with the Process Owner, and if possible the Executive Sponsor.
  • Provide a completed template example ahead of time.
  • Plan for 60-90 minutes and get it done in that time.
  • Follow the template sections during the charter.
  • Don’t let the Process Owner talk about challenges for more than 5-10 minutes
  • Don’t let the Project Lead get into the weeds when doing the high level map.

For Doing Current State Process Diagrams

  • Start with a single instance (use case) of the current process and map that. Doing multiple instances at one time creates spaghetti diagrams.
  • Use I-4 Lists as a parking lot to stay on track
  • Keep asking “What happened next?” to help the team stick to the instance.
  • Get everyone engaged- contributing to the swim lane model, or adding to the parking lot I-4 Lists.
  • The purpose is to finish the model (in 2 hours or less) not to get it perfect.

For Selecting Which Analytical Techniques to Use

  • Do the four required techniques (Read my blog for more details, We’re Done Process Modeling. Next is Optimization –WRONG)
  • Then see if other techniques are needed based on the Process Owner’s Improvement targets.
  • Get quantitative data and use it.
  • Build a Visual Analysis Model to bring the analytics to life. Process Owners and Executive Sponsors love them!

For Doing Facilitation in a Virtual Environment

  • You must share documents on screen so everyone can see them.
  • Build documents on screen as well.
  • Allow a bit more time for the work, and keep the total session to 2-3 hours maximum.
  • Do a roll call of participants to start.
  • Use chat to get responses from multiple participants.
  • Participants should tell the group if they are leaving the meeting for a few minutes.
  • Call on people to make sure everyone participates.
  • Have roles for small groups to present work or do work offline.

Want to learn more about the Team Facilitator role and all the roles in a BPI project, as well as what BPM Methodology will make the project successful? Register for my online workshop, Analyzing and Optimizing BPM Processes, Nov. 20 and 21, 2013 or Starting and Organizing a BPM Project, February 2014.